Madison County Opinion...

NOVEMBER 24, 2004

By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
November 24, 2004

Frankly Speaking

Thanksgiving is a religious holiday
Don’t tell the ACLU, but Thanksgiving is a religious holiday. It is the only American religious holiday that was created by Congress.
The other big religious holidays, Christmas and Easter, were pre-existent festivals that Congress simply acknowledged by giving government employees paid leave for their celebrations. Thanksgiving, at least the date and form in which it is celebrated, was determined by congress.
How can I say that Thanksgiving is a religious holiday? When we gather around the banquet table to give thanks for the blessings in life, to whom do we speak? Oh, we are grateful for our parents for raising us, for our bosses who sign out pay checks, the teachers who help prepare our kids for adulthood. But most of us always credit God for all these blessings and more.
Even in the distant past, people held harvest festivals to honor their god or gods for supplying food for the winter. The Algonkian tribes at the time of the pilgrims held six harvest festivals during the year. Thus by the fall of 1621 the practice of a harvest/thanksgiving festival was a centuries old tradition in New England. The Pilgrims did not invent Thanksgiving; they just borrowed it from the Indians.
They were not the first to do so. These first British settlers upon landing in Virginia held that Thanksgiving at Berkeley Hundred on December 4, 1619.
Upon debarking from the ship, they were greeted with this directive from the London Company:
“We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
Even that was not the first according to some. In the year 1578, the English navigator Martin Frobisher held a formal ceremony, in what is now called Newfoundland, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. Canadians continue to celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October.
But millennia before any of these, the Druids were celebrating harvest festivals all over the British Isles. India had such celebrations centuries before that. Nearly every culture in all parts of the world has celebrated thanksgiving in some form for as long as humankind has existed.
In every case, these Thanksgiving celebrations were dedicated to the god or gods of each culture. And today, we offer our thanks and praise to the One True God for his blessings.
While we are gathered together with our friends and families this Thanksgiving day, we must be sure to keep in mind the purpose of the holiday. Whether as individuals or as a group, in silent prayer or by praying out loud, we must remember that it is from God that all our blessings flow, and give Him the credit.
May God bless us on this special day, and every other day for the rest of our lives.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is His website can be accessed at

By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
November 24, 2004

A Moment with Margie

So what are you thankful for?
This week's feature concerns thankfulness through the eyes of some local first graders. As you'll notice, as I've noticed every year since I've been doing this 'Thanksgiving story,' kids are thankful for some very basic things; their families, their pets, their friends, their teachers, and of course, the turkey they plan to eat.
When asked the basic question: "What are you thankful for?" They don't usually come up with how many toys they have, how fancy a home they live in, how many clothes are in their closets, or any of the other things so many of us seem to spend so much time worrying about.
So after I got home, I asked myself the same question, "what am I most thankful for?"
And after some consideration, I find that my answer is quite similar to the first graders. I'm thankful for my family, God, my home, my health and my pets. I'm thankful for a few days off, the anticipation of eating some of my favorite foods (although not especially turkey) and of spending time with those I love.
I'm thankful I have a job and I'm thankful I get to do fun things like talk to first graders about what they're thankful for.
So, what would you say if I (or anyone) asked you the question, what is it you're most thankful for?
I'd venture your answers would be similar to mine. That being said, why don't we all take a few moments to really take stock of all we have to be thankful for.
After all, the elections are over (thank God, literally), the holidays are upon us and the end of another year is in sight. We can't go back, we can only go forward, so let's all try being thankful for the blessings in our lives.
And by the way, thanks for reading this column.
Happy Thanksgiving.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.

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